Audioslave, ‘Out of Exile’ (Interscope/Epic)
Aren’t you sick of hearing about how Seattle’s liberal latte-lickers don’t understand Cheyenne’s conservative lager-lifters? I humbly suggest, my fellow Americans, that it’s time to embrace a culture of awesomeness that bridges this divide. And I nominate Audioslave’s second album to drive this initiative. The group’s debut was muddled by a shotgun marriage between the sludgy Cro-Mag music that singer Chris Cornell personified in Soundgarden and the frantic, hip-hop-inflected metal the other three Audioslave guys perfected in Rage Against the Machine. That tension has been resolved in Cornell’s favor — turns out we can all agree on big, fat riffs. “Your Time Has Come” blasts out of the gate with a six-note descending figure so gigantic it could only have been recorded with each band member occupying his own planet; Cornell wraps it with some suitably oblique lyrics about visiting the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. You can draw parallels to the mess in Iraq or fantasize about the song blaring from your tank as you roll through Basra. It works either way.
Audioslave attack their jobs with the single-mindedness of a union workplace. Drummer Brad Wilk drives, bassist Tim Commerford is solely in charge of grooves, and guitarist Tom Morello works hard at being amazing. At various times, his guitar sounds like a harpsichord, a telegraph, a turntable; but mostly it’s a very well-played standard rock tool, which takes the pressure off Cornell’s classic-rocker wail to tie things together. Sometimes that remarkable instrument gets stuck with self-help lyrics like “Be yourself is all that you can do,” but when Cornell smoothly delivers ironically mystical stuff like “When I first came to this islaaaand,” on the title track, you’ll find yourself pricing knee-high lace-up boots on eBay. Ballads like “Heaven’s Dead” and “#1 Zero” manage to relax the pace without watering it down, while deep cuts like “Man or Animal” are as hot as anything this side of Led Zeppelin II. So now let us rock. Together.